Advisory committee narrowing scope, issues for harbor management plan

By Douglas McCulloch | Sep 26, 2017
Courtesy of: Town of Dartmouth A map shows the two potential study areas.

Guided by professional planners, Dartmouth residents, and business owners, a new committee will create a comprehensive management plan for Padanaram Harbor.

Within the next 18 months, the advisory committee members hope to have enough feedback and data to produce a plan that will identify issues and current and future needs of the harbor. It will also identify changes needed to town regulations or bylaws to implement project goals, explained Town Planner John Hansen, who is leading the project from the town side.

Funded with a grant from the state Seaport Economic Council, the town is working with the Urban Harbors Institute, based out of the University of Massachusetts Boston, to develop the plan. The institute has created between 18 and 19 municipal harbor management plans, but each town can be different, said Jack Wiggin, who works for the institute.

“The process we go through each time is similar, but the plan is a product of issues that exist at the local level,” Wiggin said.

At the committee's September 26 meeting, members debated two focus areas that must be identified early in the process: the scope of the physical study area for the management plan, and the key issues that it will address. Urban Harbors Institute representatives suggested two study areas. Both are bounded by Middle and Elm Streets in Padanaram, but one would only focus on the immediate shoreline on the western side of the harbor, while the second would include the harbor's entire watershed.

Members identified water quality as a top concern, and leaned toward concentrating on the entire harbor to better understand potential sources of contamination and pollutants. Members also wanted to include more of Padanaram in the study area to account for sources of stormwater drainage, which the project team will have to investigate with the town's Department of Public Works.

Water quality issues include sources of contamination from both the watershed on the western side of the harbor, and the Buttonwood Brook, which could be challenging to track because of uncertainty in the source of the brook's pollution issues.

Other issues brought up in the meeting include transportation and public access to the waterfront. Pathways Committee Chair Alan Heureux noted plans for a public walkway along the waterfront are in the works though his committee. Other members suggested making Padanaram more bike and pedestrian-friendly, targeting the Russells Mills Road-Elm Street intersection for safety improvements, and tackling parking in the village.

Public informational meetings will be scheduled for residents to learn about the project and weigh in.

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